RENO, Nev. — ASTA is planning to charge members a transaction fee to generate funds for promoting ASTA and its travel agents to consumers, according to Jay Ellenby, incoming chairman of the board of directors.

Ellenby made the announcement during a press conference Wednesday during the ASTA Global Convention here.

“We need to generate more funds,” he said, so ASTA has decided to institute the fee on all member agents, though the amount of that fee has not yet been decided, nor has its implementation date.

Incoming ASTA chairman Jay Ellenby said the tranaction fee could be as low as 5 cents if the board finds that to be the appropriate amount.
Incoming ASTA chairman Jay Ellenby said the tranaction fee could be as low as 5 cents if the board finds that to be the appropriate amount. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

“The thought was, for all of the transactions the agents do — ASTA agents — for every transaction, a certain [fee] would go to that, so it would be like a passenger facility charge of some kind … It could be 10 cents, it could be a quarter, it could be 50 cents, it could be a dollar, depending on what we come up with, what makes sense,” Ellenby said.

He also said the fee could be as low as 5 cents if the board finds that to be the appropriate amount. It will be up to individual agents/agencies if they bear the cost of the fee or if they pass it on to their clients.

The funds collected will go to funding initiatives that promote consumer awareness of travel agents, like videos ASTA has recently produced.

“Quite honestly, we’re getting tired of hearing, ‘You guys are still around?’” Ellenby said. “It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Yes, we’re very much around. Consumer awareness is critical.”

Outgoing chairman Roger Block said that in the past four years, ASTA has made great progress, including financially. For the past two years the Society has been operating “in the black,” and will be this year again, he said.

“It’s clearly a new ASTA,” said Ellenby, who said his goal as incoming chairman is to continue that growth trajectory.

ASTA has set a goal of starting 10 new chapters this year (there are currently 26), and increase its premium members from 134 to 140. Additionally, the Society is hoping to grow the number of attendees to its convention next year in San Diego.

This year, about 750 agents attended the conference in Reno, compared to about 920 at last year’s conference in Washington, D.C. ASTA CEO Zane Kerby attributed the decrease in attendees to the conference location, as 65% of ASTA’s members are based on the East Coast.

Ellenby said the goal has been set to hit 1,000 attendees next year in San Diego. He believes 1,100 is attainable.

Kerby said as of July 31, ASTA had 8,965 total members in all of its various membership categories. The supplier and domestic membership categories are growing. There has been some consolidation, slightly shrinking the number of premium members the society has, and international numbers have decreased slightly, as well.

Helping ASTA members get in front of consumers is one of the Society’s main goals, according to Kerby. ASTA has been funneling resources into that goal in funding advertising that will reach consumers.

One example of putting ASTA agents in front of consumers is the news-style online video programming ASTA launched Wednesday at its conference, “Travel Agents Taking Off.” The videos are available to view on ASTA’s website, and member agents are invited to post them on their own websites.

The videos, which total 32 minutes, include different chapters featuring interviews, news items and editorial profiles of leaders and organizations, all focused on how agents are shaping the future of the travel industry. They were produced by ITN Productions, which is planning another set of videos for next year.

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